By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s varsity boys basketball team “didn’t come out ready to play” against Strasburg High School, according to head coach Chris Capannola, last Thursday in their 62-57 loss to the Rams. Capannola said the Mustangs (4-2, 4-2) lacked intensity in the road game at Strasburg (3-2, 3-1).
“You can’t go on the road and play as uninspired as that and expect to win,” Capannola said. “It’s the road games that are so important to a team’s overall success, and we haven’t figured out how to play as well with the red uniforms on as we do with the white ones on.”
The Mustangs committed 11 fouls in the first quarter and their three leading scorers, sophomore forward Robert Tartt and sophomore guards Elliot Mercado and Josh Allen, had three fouls each by the end of the first half. Capannola attributed the defensive woes to a lack of sound fundamentals.
“We were a step slow in the press, we allowed them to dribble through us and around us most of the game and that isn’t gonna work for a team that presses like we do,” Capannola said. “We generated nothing off our defense except points for Strasburg and that’s why we lost.”
Early foul trouble limited the Mustangs’ ability to apply pressure to the Rams’ offense, Capannola said.
Junior forward George deMars led the Mustangs in scoring against the Rams with 14 points, 12 of which came during the second quarter. Tartt, Mercado and Allen, who have been averaging a combined 46 points between them so far this year, only combined for 23 points in the game.
“We passed up many easy shots and wound up taking harder ones which is the case with young teams sometimes,” Capannola said. “We’re still trying to figure out when to pass and when to shoot and when to go hard to the rim and when to pull up.”
According to Capannola, his team was not happy with the outcome of the game and felt they let the game slip away. “Hopefully the light goes on at some point and we realize every team protects its home court ferociously, and you have to play that much better on the road to come out of these games with wins,” he said.
The Mustangs are moving on to the Joe Cascio Holiday Classic, a tournament hosted by Falls Church High School staring this Friday night. George Mason takes on the Jaguars in their opening round matchup. Last year the Jaguars beat the Mustangs, 57-51, in the first round of the tournament.
Capannola said the team is going to work on creating more options on offense, playing better half court offense and zone defense in the run up to the tournament.
“[We] need to make sure we can play some zone defense on a team that has outside shooters,” Capannola said. “We played all man to man against the Burg and we should have zoned them, especially with all the fouls we had.”
He said he hopes the tournament will help the young Mustangs build confidence going into the New Year, when George Mason will face a long stretch of tough opponents in important Bull Run district games.
“We should be loose and ready to attack the teams we play this week, and the goal is to build some positive momentum going forward,” Capannola said.